Should rename Apple iTunes to Apple Media

macOS 10.15 Catalina: The shared iTunes

Thomas crossbows

With macOS Catalina, iTunes on the Mac is history, and the Music, TV, Podcasts and Books apps do the work. But there are also some serious disadvantages

The synchronization of music, films, podcasts and audiobooks with the iPhone and iPad, which iTunes was previously responsible for, is now handled by the Finder under macOS Catalina. If you connect an iPhone or iPad to the Mac, the device's icon appears in the sidebar of the Finder window. If you select it, the options appear on the right in the window to synchronize the music stored on the Mac as well as the films, podcasts, audio books and photos with the iPhone and iPad. If the device icon is not displayed, open the Finder's settings and select the option “CDs, DVDs and iOS devices” under “Sidebar> Places”.

EnlargeThe Finder is now responsible for synchronizing an iPhone or iPad with the Mac.

The Finder is now also responsible for the backup and you can search for and install iOS updates there. Apple has outsourced another function of iTunes to a place that is not quickly noticed, namely the release of the media library in the local network. This can now be found in the system setting “Shares” under the name “Share media”. If you activate private sharing on the right in the window, you can access both the music and TV media library from other Macs and iOS devices in the network that are logged in with the same Apple ID.

EnlargeThe settings for sharing the music and film library can be found in the system settings "Approvals".

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The “iTunes” folder with the tracks saved under “iTunes Media> Music” will continue to be used by the Music program after the update to macOS Catalina, regardless of whether it is stored on the internal data carrier or on an external volume. Newly imported tracks (music continues to import music CDs) also end up there. The media library file (Music Library), on the other hand, is stored in the new “Music> Music” folder. If you reinstall macOS Catalina on a Mac and only then import music tracks, there is a “Media” folder in the “Music> Music” folder that contains the media files.

If you don't want to enjoy music, podcasts and TV, you can still use iTunes under macOS Catalina, but with a detour: A Github project called Retroactive is bringing the missing app back to the Mac.

EnlargeMany of the covers that are missing at first can be downloaded from the iTunes Store, but there are still a number of gaps.

After starting music for the first time after updating to macOS Catalina, almost all CD covers are missing from the iTunes library. Because music does not use the “Album Artwork” folder for the covers like iTunes, but now saves them in the user's library folder and has to copy the covers there first. That takes a long time, we wait a good 30 minutes after installing Catalina 10.15. When checking the covers copied there, we also noticed that some of the covers are transferred multiple times to the new directory, while other covers are missing. There are a number of gaps in the covers. In our test media library with a total of around 6000 titles, the covers are missing for around 2500 titles after the first start of music. After updating to Catalina 10.15.1, we will do the test again. The copying of the cover pictures is now much faster, but otherwise the problems described remain.

EnlargeMusic no longer stores the cover art in the music folder, but in the user's library.

Anyone who has only saved music from the iTunes Store in iTunes will get their cover back immediately when they log into the store in Music. Music covers can also be downloaded from the iTunes Store for titles whose covers are not initially displayed. To do this, open the “File” menu and select “Library> Load album cover”. This does not always succeed, however, because either the album is not available in the store or because the name in music is not identical to that in the iTunes store. 97 albums remain in our test library without covers, even though they were available in iTunes, and now have to be added again manually. The update to Catalina 10.15.1 does not change anything. The Apple developers have not earned a glory here.

EnlargeIn each view, the albums or tracks can be quickly filtered by a term.

The music program can be operated largely in the same way as iTunes, there are only minor changes in operation. Understandably, the drop-down menu that was used to select between the various media types in iTunes has been omitted. The iTunes Store can be reached in Music via the sidebar. It now only shows the music tracks. However, if you list the items you have bought in the store, films, TV programs and audio books are also listed. Since you can't download the media in music from the store, that doesn't make much sense.

EnlargeOnce you have inserted the lyrics of the songs, they can now be displayed on the right in the window.

If you do not use Apple Music, you can hide the streaming service in the music preferences under "Restrictions" as in iTunes. The iTunes Store can also be deactivated here. The list display for the albums has disappeared in music, there is only the grid view. In addition to the search field, which is now at the top of the sidebar and which you can use to search in Apple Music as well as in the media library and in the iTunes Store, there is a field for filtering within the media library. It is displayed via the "View" menu or by using the Shift (⇧) -Command (⌘) -F key shortcut. The display shown in the window is filtered, for example the album or artist view. Also new is the option to display the text of the title currently playing, provided that it has been inserted into music. You can display it using the second icon from the top right in the toolbar.

The default settings are more revised. There are now only five categories instead of eight and a number of settings have changed places. The administration settings can now be found under "Files" instead of "Advanced", and the defaults for downloads have moved to "General". The "Synchronize media library" option is new here. If you have activated Apple Music or iTunes Match, all music libraries that use the same Apple ID are automatically synchronized, regardless of whether they are on a Mac, iPhone or iPad. The category for the devices has disappeared, since backups of iOS devices are now made in the Finder.

EnlargeSwinsian is an alternative to the Music program for managing self-ripped music and audiobooks on the Mac.

Alternative to music

If you don't use Apple Music or the iTunes Store, but only manage your own ripped tracks, you can use the Swinsian program as an alternative to music. It costs $ 25 and is free to try for 30 days.

Swinsian either accesses an existing iTunes or music library, or manages the music media itself. The program is constantly updated by the developer and adapted to the current macOS, and is compatible with Catalina. In addition to music, Swinsian also manages and plays audio books it has entered itself, but not purchased audio books with copy protection.

What Swinsian can't do: rip music from a CD and transfer music to an iPhone or iPad. Additional tools are required for this. For ripping it is best to use the open source program XLD, which also takes the covers from the Internet and adds them to the music files. And for transferring the music to an iOS device, iMazing is an excellent tool. It can do a lot more than just copy music to the iPhone or iPad. For this purpose, iMazing can currently be used free of charge, using the fast transfer. The regular price of the program is € 40.

EnlargeWith the open source program XLD, the CD collection can be digitized and provided with covers.

Movies and TV shows

The TV program is responsible for films and television programs under Catalina and works in the same way as the app of the same name on the iPad and iPhone. You can use the buttons in the toolbar in the online store to access films, TV programs and children's films separately and to display the media library. Under “View now” you can get suggestions from both the media library and the store.

EnlargeThe TV program window shows either movies or TV shows in the media library.

Using the search field, TV searches both in the media library and in the online store. Like Music, TV continues to use the iTunes Media folder to store movies and TV shows when switching to Catalina from a previous version of macOS. Only the media library file is saved separately in the “Movies> TV” folder. If you have reinstalled Catalina and only then import films and TV shows, these are stored in the “Films> TV> Media” folder in the corresponding sub-folders.

EnlargeUnder “View now”, the program makes suggestions from the media library and the online shop.

Audio books

The audiobooks, which iTunes was previously responsible for, are managed by the Books program under Catalina. Unlike Music and TV, Books no longer uses the iTunes folder for media, but copies the audiobooks stored in the iTunes Media> Audiobooks folder to the Library folder of the user directory, in a subfolder that is difficult to find. After the update to Catalina, the data is not only available twice, but now occupies space on the internal data carrier, even if the audiobooks were previously saved on an external medium or a network drive. All newly purchased audio books also end up there. With many audio books, however, many gigabytes of data can quickly accumulate and thus reduce the available storage space on the internal data carrier without you being able to do anything about it.

A completely incomprehensible decision by the Apple developers. So if you have a large number of audio books you have entered into iTunes yourself, you should definitely not manage them with books unless you have ample storage space on the internal data carrier. The best thing to do is to remove the “Audiobooks” folder from the “iTunes> iTunes-Media” folder before updating to Catalina, and then use Swinsian, for example, for management (see box).

EnlargeThe Books program is now also responsible for the audio books.

There are some changes to the operation in books compared to the previous version under Mojave. Like music, the program now has a sidebar that you can use to select what is displayed in the window. It cannot be edited. In previous versions of books there were buttons for this in the toolbar. Instead, there are buttons there to switch between the library and the online store for books and audiobooks. There is now a new icon in the top left of the toolbar to switch between the grid and list display.

EnlargeThe audiobooks are automatically stored in the library and can therefore take up considerable space on the internal data carrier.


The Podcasts program plays both audio podcasts and video podcasts. Programs can be subscribed to, loaded automatically and deleted again after listening or viewing. You only have direct access to the podcasts that Apple offers in its online shop. "Discover" and "Charts" in the sidebar can be used to find current programs or to search specifically for podcasts using the search field.

EnlargeIf you subscribe to programs, they are shown with a cover in the view of the same name.

If you have found a program that you would like to hear more often, you can subscribe to it by clicking on the "Subscribe" button. Using the button on the right with the three dots, you can make the settings for the podcast and, among other things, specify which programs should be loaded (all, only the latest) and whether episodes that you have heard should be automatically deleted. All subscribed programs can be found under the entry of the same name in the sidebar; a double-click on an icon displays the available episodes. Podcasts that cannot be found at Apple can be subscribed to via the “File> Add program via URL” menu by typing in or pasting the URL of a podcast station. Just like books, podcasts save their data in the user's library; another storage location cannot be selected.

EnlargeYou can use the search field to search for podcasts and then subscribe to them with one click.